Spätis: the convenience stores that dominate Berlin

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The origins of Spätis date back to 1950 when “Spätverkaufsstellen” (literally: “the late outlets”), opened its doors to begin serving night workers in the former communist state of East Germany at the end of their shifts. According to The Berliner Zeitung newspaper, more than 100 such stores were dotted around Berlin before the fall of the Berlin Wall, but they were only located in the east. In the West, those looking for a beer or cigarettes in the late evening had to go to a gas station, and it wasn’t until the city was reunited that modern spätis began to appear everywhere. Today, while the concept of a late store exists in other parts of Germany, it is this story that makes them unique in Berlin.

But spätis also offer their customers something else, which is belied by the wobbly (but somehow indestructible) wooden tables and benches outside – and sometimes inside – their doors. For Berliners, spätis have a social function as a place to chat with friends over beers, soft drinks or coffees bought inside. Partly because they’re cheaper than bars, it’s also an egalitarian place: it’s possible to find everyone from former East German construction workers to American expats to college students and college students. going through Tinder dates, Turkish girl groups, and British bachelor parties on the benches outside the same.

Right next to Mitte’s Rosenthaler Platz, the Rosenback Kiosk enjoys a prime location next to a busy U-Bahn metro line and Volkspark am Weinberg, a popular park for meeting friends and spending an afternoon. noon lying on the grass with cold Berlin pilsner Kindl. Open 24 hours a day, it serves fresh bread rolls and pastries to morning commuters. At night, however, he transforms. It’s called a “party späti” and works almost like a bar: it’s a destination to meet up with friends and have a drink. On weekend evenings, tables of Berliners and visitors seated shoulder to shoulder spill out onto the sidewalk in front of its entrance. Inside there is a constant line up at the checkout for more beers, more Fritz-kolas (the German answer to Coca-Cola), more sachets of tobacco.

Another well known club, melancholy 2, is accessible through the refrigerator door of a späti in Mitte, which raises the question of whether it is a späti-club or a club-späti.

During the pandemic, when it was not possible to drink from loitering clusters outside of spätis or bars selling take-out drinks, spätis also became a place that supported what was left of the legendary nightlife of the Berliners. With the closure of bars and clubs, Berliners were stocking up on späti drinks and taking them to places where they could still congregate to throw their own parties – mainly parks, the banks of the Landwehr Canal and the itinerant walks in the river. city.


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